“You’re so lucky that you already know what you want to do in life”, she said as I told her I was going to be the no.1 golfer in the world. I was 15 years old and had just won my country’s national amateur championship. I couldn’t understand how anyone didn’t know what they wanted to do in life. I mean, you just do what you really want to do, right?
What a well-intentioned idiot I was.
I fell for the Nike I am Tiger Woods campaign. I believed in the idea that you must know your destiny in life from when you’re old enough to walk so that you can spend years and years perfecting your craft and finally show the world your greatness. And I couldn’t separate my dreams from the dreams of my father who placed a golf club in my hands at the age of 7.
The years that followed set me up for a decade of functional depression. I didn’t make it as a professional golfer because, well, I simply wasn’t good enough. I can list a hundred excuses here. However, those who are meant to be doing it find a way. I lost mine.
Once my golf dream had come to an end, I built a new reality in the form of a 10+ year career in digital marketing, which continues to pay my bills today. However, along the way, I have flirted with data science, computer programming, eCommerce, affiliate marketing, copywriting, and much more.
The voice of the Disappointed Elder inside my head taunts me for my waywardness. “You’re 36 years old. How do you NOT know exactly what to do next? How can you be so irresponsible?”, he says, with his tea-stained breath fogging up his own glasses.
I could do the typical online writer thing and quote Steve Jobs on how you can’t predict how all your intellectual wandering will come together:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards.” — Steve Jobs
But by most accounts, he was a proper a*$hole, so let’s leave that be.
Instead, let me leave you with a recommendation, to read ‘Range’ by David Epstein, in which he beautifully argues the value of breadth vs. depth of knowledge by comparing ‘kind’, i.e. highly specific, predictable environments, in which uber-specialists such as Tiger Woods succeed, vs. the ‘wicked’, i.e. unpredictable, ever-changing environments in which most knowledge work is conducted.
If you’re a knowledge worker, you’re much better off broadening your passions rather than following them. As long as you are learning interesting, varied things, you are increasing the chances of it all coming together in wonderful, unexpected ways.